NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 13, 2018
ADAM SILVER: I apologize for being so late on a Friday afternoon, but very much appreciate your being here.
We just came off a productive two days of meetings. We talked about the season that just passed. It was a very upbeat meeting. I think there's a very positive sense around the league that we had a terrific regular season.
Obviously we had -- if we want to know what a play-in tournament looks like, we now saw one in the Western Conference. There was a lot of excitement around that, plus a lot of jockeying for seeds in the West and the East.
And then we talked a bit about the business. We're coming off record attendance; in fact, an all-time high in attendance in the league this past season. Highest TV ratings in four years. Merchandising sales are up. Again, a very positive sense in the room.
I was particularly pleased on discussions on topics around revenue sharing. There was a real sense of partnership in the room. Robust discussion on the issues, but there's no question people view themselves as partners and, in essence, wanted to talk about how to make the league even stronger. So I'm pleased with the results from these meetings.
Given the time Friday evening, happy to answer any questions you might have.
Q. In regard to revenue sharing, what was exactly decided today? And if there was an agreement to keep revenue sharing going the way it was, what does that do for certain teams who benefit from it? I know you said there was some discussion about it. How difficult was it to convince certain owners to continue to participate in revenue sharing?
ADAM SILVER: The decision today was to continue in place the revenue-sharing plan that was originally adopted in 2011 that at that time -- that coming out of the lockout in the 2011-12 season, we adopted a new CBA together with revenue sharing. That plan was tweaked, in essence, in 2015. There were some additional modifications made to it at these meetings, and the agreement was to keep this plan in place through the remainder of this CBA. So that takes us to the '22-23 season.
The changes we made were designed to better align incentives to ensure that the teams who are contributing to revenue sharing feel absolutely incentivized to generate every last dollar and to continue building their business, and incentives to ensure that the teams that receive revenue sharing are also appropriately incentivized.
In terms of my discussion about the sense of partnership, ultimately we believe whether you're a contributor or a recipient that this type of revenue sharing is in everyone's interest because it makes us a better competitor in the market for entertainment. It makes us a greater competitor in terms of the competition on the floor by having more teams that are in a position to both compete for championships and also in a position to make a little bit of money, and then to reinvest that and to continue building their organizations.
You know, at the end, it was a coming together of the teams. I think in a way there's probably something for everyone not to like about the plan. I mean, when we went through the discussions with our teams, virtually every team had something different that they didn't like about it than other teams. Part of that is based on having different circumstances in different markets. No two teams are the same. But again, I think that there was a sense of compromise in the room.
You know, nobody is happy who has to write those checks, but I think, again, they understand the league is no stronger than its weakest team. There are things we all talked about, that teams can do a better job within their market, ensuring that they're investing in the needed resources to make sure they're putting a first-class product on the floor. But at the same time, there was a recognition that there are differences in markets, and not every team has the same ability to generate revenue.
And by the way, it's not so simple as big markets versus small markets anymore. It gets complex. It has to do with what the other competitors are in that market. It has to do at any given time with your particular roster.
So, again, I was very pleased about the tenor of the conversation among the owners.
Q. I'm curious if the league is reviewing how teams handle dancers in the wake of claims of sexual assault and payment lawsuits?
ADAM SILVER: Let me broaden the answer by saying that we're reviewing respect-for-the-workplace issues for all our employees, and certainly that includes dancers. As you probably know, we put in place a hotline this year that covers all employees in the league and all employees in the arena that are affiliated with the league. We put in place respect-for-the-workplace training among all our employees, and that includes in-person training, video training. We put in place a code of conduct both at the league office -- we've had one but we revised it. And we're working with all our teams to ensure that they have codes of conduct in place in their workplace.
We take any allegations very seriously, and dancers in particular. We recognize that they're on the front line, and to the extent that there's been anything inappropriate, we'll, of course, look into it.
Q. Now that you have your 16 playoff teams, was there any formal discussion about the prospects that we've talked about before in terms of seeding 1 through 16 or taking the best 16 teams?
ADAM SILVER: No formal discussions at this meeting. It's been an ongoing issue that we've been discussing, both with the Competition Committee and at the Board level. I think we're at the point right now where nobody has a better solution. As we've talked about before, it's a balance of travel issues versus conference issues versus how the schedule should be set.
You had, as you typically do, this year one team -- in this case it was the Denver Nuggets -- that had a better record than the team in the East. But as I said, it's not just about that. I think it also goes to the actual seeding of the playoff teams themselves.
We're satisfied with where we are only because when we look at alternatives, it seems that the travel becomes overwhelming. And so we're status quo for the time being, but we're always looking to see if we can improve it.
Q. Did the Denver-Minnesota game perk up any interest in actually formalizing a play-in game like baseball has done?
ADAM SILVER: It's continued interest in a play-in game. There have been proposals that the league has been looking at in the last several weeks. In fact, we reviewed a play-in-type proposal with the Competition Committee recently and we discussed it in the Board of Governors meeting. I'm sure we'll be discussing it again this summer at our next meeting.
The answer is "yes" for me. It was an incredibly exciting game, and it does open up those possibilities that we can be looking at something more formalized, but certainly a play-in-type format.
Q. This is a couple months old now, but in starting the year earlier this year, the All-Star Game kind of fell much later in the season, 55 games in. Did you hear from any teams about that, that were saying maybe our guys are a little tired, and was there anything you can do about that, if so?
ADAM SILVER: You know, honestly, I did not hear a lot about that. What I mainly heard was by moving the trade deadline up before the All-Star Game this year, it allowed a lot of GMs to sort of take in All-Star weekend in a way they haven't been able to over the past several years. I think also for players, I think they appreciated the fact that there would be some stability going into All-Star weekend, and if they were going to be traded, it gave them an opportunity to move their families and readjust over that time period.
In terms of where it fell, I didn't hear a lot about that, but that's something we'll continue to look at. We've sort of been focused around that Presidents' Day weekend holiday as the best time to do it because it's a three-day weekend for a lot of people. It allows for a travel day back for a lot of our guests. And from a calendar standpoint, those dates are usually locked in years ahead.
But if you're hearing, as a good reporter, that there's some grousing about when that weekend falls, I'm sure we'll look at it.
Q. This week the NBA Players Association and the unions of the other three major men's sports issued a joint release about sports betting and seeking a seat at the table, apparently more involvement than they feel they've had. Can you comment on that and what sort of discussions you guys have had about betting?
ADAM SILVER: I can only speak to our Players Association and to Michele Roberts, and she and I spoke directly about it. We spoke about what the league's position has been -- it's well-known -- on sports betting, and the specific positions we've taken in front of some of the state legislatures. My sense from Michele is she shares some of the same concerns that the league does, and that is ensuring that we can protect the integrity of the league and all its participants. Whatever happens legislatively, she and I are going to continue to talk about that.
Q. Any update on the referee-player friction? That seems like something that around All-Star was getting addressed on multiple fronts, and we're heading towards a pretty emotional part of the season.
ADAM SILVER: Yeah, so my update there, and I think it's a positive one, that since beginning shortly before the All-Star break, we've conducted 30 respect-for-the-game meetings. Michelle Johnson, who oversees our Referee Operations, together with Monty McCutchen, who oversees referee development, the two of them, accompanied by others from the league office, have met with every single team at this point -- and by that I mean the players on the team, together with the coaching staffs -- and talked directly about those issues. I think I said it at All-Star, that we think the best way to solve these issues is through direct dialogue and people being empathetic and understanding each other's positions.
The reports back I've gotten, both from Monty and Michelle and directly from the teams, is that they've been very constructive and they've been very appreciative that we've taken the time to have those discussions and, again, to clarify some of the misunderstandings.
But ultimately, I don't think there are any shortcuts. I know Michele Roberts and I have talked a lot about it. She and her players are focused on anything that they can do to improve relationships, and they know that we are with our referees as well. So I feel pretty good going into the playoffs that we've made some real progress there.
Q. I know you addressed workplace issues a little bit. After the All-Star Game, Sports Illustrated wrote a story about the workplace culture within the Dallas Mavericks. I know there's an investigation. Where is that investigation? What kind of update can you share? Do you know when they expect to be completed and the Mavericks and the league receive a report?
ADAM SILVER: The investigation is still ongoing. It's been incredibly thorough. It includes interviewing every single employee of the Mavericks' organization plus every former employee who is willing to make themselves available to the investigators. In the attempt to be so thorough, it's taking a fair amount of time to complete the investigation.
The latest I heard is they hoped to be done by early summer, June, early July time frame. From everything I've heard directly from the investigators, everyone has been completely cooperative. And by the way, it doesn't just include interviews. It includes documents, it includes emails. And that's come directly from Mark Cuban. He's told the investigators that and he's told the league office that as well, that he is open book, and he's demanding himself a thorough investigation. So we're waiting for the outcome of that.
Q. I was just curious why the Grizzlies weren't punished for tanking when other teams were. You came out strongly against tanking earlier this season, and I'm just wondering, that team specifically seemed to have some issues --
ADAM SILVER: No team was, so-called, punished for tanking --
Q. Or warned.
ADAM SILVER: I will just say we had conversations with several teams about what the product was that they were putting on the floor, and I'll leave it at that. They were just direct conversations we had with teams.
Well, let me add, I find it an incredibly difficult issue. We are changing the Draft Lottery for next year. That was something that had already been voted on, but we continue to look at the issue. We recognize that our goal was to put the best competition on the floor, and it's balanced against legitimate rebuilding of some teams. But I know we're not there yet, and I certainly wasn't satisfied.
There can only be so much cajoling out of the league office. It's one of those things that the last place I want to go as the commissioner of the league office is to start dictating minutes and which particular players should be playing at what points in the game.
I recognize that the incentives are not aligned right now, that there's a huge incentive to increase your chances in the Draft Lottery, especially under the old system. As I said, we're switching the system for next year. We'll see how much of an impact that has, but my sense is we're still going to have some work to do.
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